Boy Caves – or Why I let my son’s room look like this (and other parenting rules I break).

The Caboose's Boy Cave

There’s something I really hate about my kids.

They’re slobs.

But I’m OK with that.


I had this realization when I was trying to enter Slick’s room recently, but was stopped a few feet in the door by the arrangement of debris and furniture.  I made a comment about not being able to walk around all the stuff, expecting a guilt-ridden boy to hop up and clear a path for me.  Instead he replied, “I like it that way.”

It took me a minute to process what he said.  Then I looked around, and from where he was sitting, on his big, oversized chair next to his bed, everything was perfect.  His laptop was within reach, the table he does homework on was at his right hand, his gaming chair perfectly positioned in front of the tv with the Xbox nestled below.  Sure he had to navigate around things to get to his little cocoon, but once there, everything was at his fingertips.  I just had to look at it through his eyes to see it.

My next stop was The Caboose’s room.  I paused at the door, looking in.  I saw a cluttered, disheveled mess.  Crap all over the dressers, toys pushed to the perimeter of the room, clothes hanging on the closet doors.  Then I went in, and sat in the “clear” area where he sits when he plays.  Everything was within reach.  There were dirty clothes among the toys and shoes scattered about, but when I called him up to ask him if he liked it like that, he said that he did.

I’ve tried many times to clear some of the junk from their rooms.  We go through the clutter, item-by-item, and I ask if they’re ready to part with things.  The answer is always the same.  Those dust catchers are markers of their lives.  Souvenirs from vacations, sports memorabilia from favorite teams, art projects they made themselves.  Every piece is part of them, and they want them there.  The collection continues to grow.  The clutter stays.

They may go a few days without putting clothes in the hamper, but eventually it gets done.  The consequence is theirs when the shirt they want to wear isn’t clean.  And they always manage to find the shoes they need, and seem to know right where to look.  Perhaps there really is some organization amongst their chaos.  I just don’t understand the methodology.

As for the closet doors being open (a pet peeve of mine), I saw it as a sign of maturity.  There are no longer monsters in that closet, so there’s no need to close the doors to keep them in.

That particular day The Caboose’s covers and pillows were on the floor, a reminder that he has recently taken to sleeping beside his bed instead of on it.  At first it was just on weekends, like a one-man sleepover, but then he started sleeping on the floor every night.  He said he liked it.  I resisted at first, because you’re not “supposed” to do that.  But he was sleeping, which was the goal, so I allowed it.  He kisses me goodnight, and crawls into his little space without a peep.  Another parenting standard out the window.

This was an epiphany for me. 

Children have very little control over their world.  They spend most of their waking hours trying to accommodate the requests of parents and teachers, much of the time operating in a manner that’s not in their comfort zone.  We tell them when to go to bed, when to wake up, what to wear, where to go.  Teachers tell them where to sit, what page to turn to, when the can go to the bathroom.  I started feeling like the least I could do was to cut them a little slack about their room.

I needed to put into practice the best parenting advice there is:  Choose Your Battles.

It would be easy to fight constantly with your kids, because adults and kids have very different views of things.  But there are things that really matter, and things that really don’t.  And I’m going to start giving less importance to the things that don’t really matter, and saving my ammunition for the things that do.  The worst thing we parents can do is exert control over our kids just because we can.

So if you stop by, and my kids’ rooms are a mess, don’t expect an apology.  As long as they stay within the parameters we agree on (safe passage to and from the bed, closet, and door) I’m going to give them some latitude.  And let them have their Boy Caves the way they like them.


43 thoughts on “Boy Caves – or Why I let my son’s room look like this (and other parenting rules I break).

  1. afterthekidsleave

    I’m so with you on this! I think it’s a matter of respect: kids, like adults, need a space to call their own. While they need to maintain basic hygiene and safety standards, after that I’m not willing to pick fights over how much stuff they leave lying around. And in the worst case, as you say, they’ll discover that laundry didn’t get done, and they have to figure out a way to cope.

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  4. toni

    My son now has been through the AirForce and now owns his own home. Two AF Friends are his roomys….He now has a MAN CAVE House…..And Loves it!!!!!! I raised a wonderful Boy!!! His room never mattered.

  5. Alana

    I really needed to read this today. Great post, great advice. I don’t know why the cleanliness of my kids’ rooms bothers me so – I don’t have to sleep in there! But what you say totally makes sense. I’m going to let them have their caves!

    1. Lisha Post author

      I’m glad. We put undue pressure on ourselves, and on them. I don’t know how old your kids are, but I wish I’d employed this attitude when mine were younger: CHOOSE YOUR BATTLES. You’ll save yourself and them a lot of angst.

  6. Lipstick and Chaos

    I’ve been meaning to read this post for days now. Its been hectic! Today was the day I was suppose to read it because I was just “harping” on kids about their disaster zone’s.
    My son, much neater than his sister and yes, everything is to his liking and within reach … funny how they do that?
    My daughter, well, her room is like the tornado that takes Dorothy to Oz, only we never quite get to Oz. It usually ends up when I have a day off, I spend hours cleaning, dusting, vacuuming, rearranging things, hanging clothes, straightening drawers …. and when she is home a few hours … we’re halfway to Oz ….
    Oh the way we have to throw “standards” out of the window ….

    1. Lisha Post author

      It’s an age-old maternal struggle! Giving them the latitide — within the parameters of safety and hygiene, of course — is a way of letting them their own little safe haven.

      Keep up the good work!

  7. DEJ

    I sooo love this blog entry Lisha! I don’t have any kids, nor am I married, but I can totally see the point of this…I do a lot of mentoring and it seems like everything is a battle. I believe I can apply some of these concepts to my one “baby” who is currently in college driving me absolutely insane… 🙂

    1. Lisha Post author

      We all “are what we are.” No amount of fussing will make these boys be like me. So if I’m going to encourage them to reach their potential, I’ve got to let them operate in the way are wired! Whether I like the looks of it or not.

  8. Pam Johnson

    Once again you have really added some food for thought kids are just kids with alot of rules and regulations coming from all directions. I know just watching how my own grandchildren’s lives are navigated I get dizzy. I have four wonderful loving grandchildren so when they make a mess I clean up behind them because that is half the fun to visiting grandparents.

    Your a blessing my friend,

  9. I Choose Happy Now

    Hi Lisha, I love the part that says “choose your battles”. I am constantly reminding myself about this.

    As for messy boys…it must be genetic! My boys are 4 and 1 and they can make such a mess! I feel like a broken record telling them it’s “clean up time”.

    I also love the part where you wrote, “Children have very little control over their world. They spend most of their waking hours trying to accommodate the requests of parents and teachers, much of the time operating in a manner that’s not in their comfort zone.” I often try to remind myself of this so I can have more compassion over the mess!


  10. Stephanie

    I love this and will have to remember it as Abby gets older! I have an obsession with having a clean house and I already find myself picking up her toys several times a day just to have her pull them all out again!

    1. Lisha Post author

      Some kids can get the hang of picking up, and some are wired to be messy.

      By the time she’s a tween, you’ll know whether it’s a battle you ought to be fighting, or not!

  11. KellyO

    Lovely piece. I have to remember this when I am on my cleaning tirades: the kids need their own space to just be.

    “As for the closet doors being open (a pet peeve of mine), I saw it as a sign of maturity. There are no longer monsters in that closet, so there’s no need to close the doors to keep them in.” Well, sometimes the closet doors are open so they can see what’s in them…like monsters. Monsters can’t hide in an open closet. 😉

    1. Lisha Post author

      They do. I enforce the clean room standards when it’s really important. And they do clean the up themselves from time to time. But a place to “just be” is exactly what we all need.

    1. Heather Holbrook

      One of my brothers loved to sleep on the floor. He did if for years, even as an adult. When he was in his late 20s, however, the doctors told him he needed to get up on a bed because he was having so many respiratory issues – I guess the dust and dirt from the floor was too much. Once he moved back to a bed, he was hardly ever sick again. But as a kid, he did great on the floor.

  12. Eugenia

    Now my dad’s dresser was a mess and he knew where everything was and if my mom would clean it he would sream……Mary I effin know where everything is up there. LOL

  13. Eugenia

    My brother’s wife just closes the door. OMG I don’t know how that 21yr. old gets dressed for work. I just recently got a plastic tote for all of Francesca’s memrobila and we put it in the attic. She was o.k. with that. I can’t just shut the door to her room thought cause the cat goes in there to look out the window. My dad used to say in my brother’s room that the only way he knew which clothes were clean was that the clean ones were on top of the dresser. My mother was a slob and it I thirve on neatness, guess that’s why, but I will keep your plan in mind and say….”Would this bother the Lucky Mom”



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